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Tips For Welcoming A New Vet Associate

Successfully integrating a new graduate or associate veterinarian into your practice can be equally stressful for both practice owner and employee.

Wendy S. Myers owns Communication Solutions for Veterinarians in Denver

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Successfully integrating a new graduate or associate veterinarian into your practice can be equally stressful for both practice owner and employee.

 
Here’s some advice from a prominent consultant and a veterinary student who will soon be the new doctor:

 

  • Place “Welcome Our New Doctor” signs on the reception counter and bulletin boards. Post announcements the month before your associate arrives.  
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  • Profile the new doctor on your Web site. Feature your associate on the homepage for the first few months and in the “Meet Our Staff” section. T he profile bio should list degrees, areas of special interest, pets and hobbies. Personal touches help clients bond with the new doctor.
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  • Have business cards printed before the new doctor’s arrival. Imagine the pride your associate veterinarian will feel when he or she can hand clients a business card on the first day of work. Display business cards on the reception counter and in exam rooms. The new doctor should give a card to every client he or she meets.  
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  • Provide a lab coat embroidered with the doctor’s name. Having your logo on the lab coat makes your new doctor feel part of your medical t eam.
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  • Send a news release and photo to local med ia. Many newspapers–especially smaller local ones–publish a “people in the news” column in the business section. Contact lifestyles or features editors who cover pets about an article. Send the news release at least two weeks prior to publication. Don’t overlook magazines, TV and radio stations.
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  • Describe your protocols and drug inventory to your new colleague.  Protocols explain your medical philosophies in areas such as core and non-core vaccines, pre-anesthetic testing, heartworm testing and prevention for dogs and cats, intestinal parasite screening, pain management and euthanasia. Let your new doctor know which drugs you stock in your pharmacy. Go over commonly prescribed antibiotics, NSAIDs, steroids, preventatives and pain drugs.
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  • Host a “meet and greet” with your veterinary team. Choose a nice restaurant for a reception or dinner. This social occasion lets the team get to know your associate before the first day of work.
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  • Make the first day special. Place a bouquet on the reception counter with a welcome card. When the new associate arrives, the practice owner should give the doctor a tour of the hospital, stopping to introduce team members and explain their roles.
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  • Make sure staff members wear nametags because your new doctor will have a lot of names to learn.
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  • The practice owner should treat the doctor to lunch the first day. Prioritize your schedule so a lunch break happens rather than having the associate work through lunch and have a growling stomach during afternoon exams.
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  • Have your new associate shadow a senior doctor for several days. Then the new veterinarian can learn your protocols and exam flow.  
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  • Make personal introductions to clients such as, “I’d like you to meet Dr. Jennifer Olson. She’s just joined our staff and brings expertise in feline medicine and surgery. Dr. Olson earned her doctorate in veterinary medicine from Cornell University this spring. We know you and your pets will enjoy getting to know her.”
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  • Provide training on your veterinary software. Show the new doctor how to access client records, create estimates, view the schedule and enter charges and prescriptions. Review the travel sheet and frequently used computer codes.
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  • Explain recordkeeping formats and preferences. Let your associate know how much detail is appropriate for medical records. Review the order of forms in records such as master problem list, progress notes, lab results and consent forms. Encourage associates to finish each record before moving onto the next appointment so information is accurate and complete. Prompt recordkeeping is a great habit to establish early in a doctor’s career.  
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  • Phase the new doctor into appointments. If you schedule 20 minutes for wellness exams, consider giving a new graduate 30-minute appointments. This allows extra time to establish client relationships and become familiar with the flow.
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  • Avoid the scavenger hunt. “Where’s the otoscope?” the new doctor asks, leaving a client waiting in the exam room. Don’t send the new doctor on a wild goose chase looking for commonly used equipment and supplies. As part of orientation, have a technician show the new doctor where items are kept and who to ask about reordering when supplies get low.
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  • Seek opinions and knowledge from your associate. Your new graduate just spent years learning the latest in veterinary medicine. Discuss cases and seek second opinions from each another.
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  • Introduce the doctor to colleagues at veterinary meetings. Before the lecture starts, introduce your new doctor to colleagues. Spend extra time talking with emergency and specialty doctors, especially those with whom you have a referral relationship. When you initiate a new doctor with these welcoming strategies, you’ll build the foundation for a lasting relationship. The “baptism by fire” approach of orienting a new doctor leaves only the practice burned.  
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  • Treat your new associate as you would have wanted to be treated on your first day as a veterinarian. Years of loyalty from your associate veterinarian will be your reward.  
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